A French far-right presidential contender, on the back foot over past support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, has said Ukrainians with family links to France should be given visas, unlike those fleeing conflicts in Muslim nations.
Eric Zemmour warned on Tuesday that an “emotional response” to the war in Ukraine risked unleashing a flood of refugees across Europe after the European Union agreed to give Ukrainians who flee the Russian invasion the right to stay and work in the 27-nation bloc for up to three years.
The United Nations says more than two million Ukrainians have already fled the country.
Zemmour applauded the United Kingdom’s more stringent approach. The UK on Monday rejected calls to ease visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees.
“If they have ties to France, if they have family in France … let’s give them visas,” Zemmour told BFM TV.
A writer and polemicist who has previous convictions for inciting racial hatred said it was acceptable to have different rules for would-be asylum seekers from Europe and those from Muslim nations.
He describes France as a once-great nation now in decline, its Christian civilisation hollowed out by the growing influence of Islam and immigration.
“It’s a question of assimilation,” Zemmour said. “There are people who are like us and people who [are] unlike us. Everybody now understands that Arab or Muslim immigrants are too unlike us and that it is harder and harder to integrate them.”
“We are closer to Christian Europeans,” he said.
In September 2020, Zemmour tweeted that he favoured a “Russian alliance” and that Moscow was “the most reliable ally, even more than the United States, Germany or Britain”. However, he has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s assault on Ukraine – which Moscow describes as a “special operation” to de-Nazify its neighbour – and public disgust over the cross-border exodus of Ukrainian citizens has hurt Zemmour in the polls.
Zemmour’s support has fallen by 3 to 4 percentage points to about 12 percent in voter surveys taken since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Europe’s open-arm welcome to fleeing Ukrainians contrasts with the reluctance to accept large numbers of refugees from conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, with some refugees complaining of double standards.